Counselling podcast: The Talk Room

Counselling podcast on ACT: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

Welcome to our podcast episode dedicated to Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), a transformative approach to mental health and well-being. In this episode, we explore how ACT can support the treatment of a variety of mental health symptoms by helping clients embrace their inner emotions and move forward in their lives. Join us as we uncover the principles and practices of ACT and discover its potential to cultivate acceptance, resilience, and psychological flexibility.

Understanding Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT):
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a mindfulness-based cognitive behavioural therapy that helps individuals develop psychological flexibility by learning to accept their inner emotions and commit to taking meaningful action in alignment with their values. In ACT, clients are encouraged to stop avoiding, denying, and struggling with their emotions and instead accept them as appropriate responses to certain situations.

Key Principles of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy:

Acceptance: The core principle of ACT is acceptance, which involves acknowledging and embracing one’s inner experiences, including thoughts, emotions, and sensations, without judgment or resistance. By accepting their internal reality, individuals can create space for growth and transformation.

Mindfulness: Mindfulness is a central component of ACT, allowing individuals to cultivate present-moment awareness and non-judgmental observation of their thoughts and feelings. Through mindfulness practices, clients learn to disengage from unhelpful thought patterns and develop greater clarity and insight into their inner experiences.

Cognitive Defusion: ACT teaches cognitive defusion techniques to help individuals create distance from their thoughts and gain perspective on their inner experiences. By recognizing that thoughts are not necessarily facts and can be observed without attachment, clients can reduce the impact of negative thinking patterns on their emotional well-being.

Values Clarification: ACT encourages individuals to clarify their values and identify what matters most to them in life. By aligning their actions with their values, clients can cultivate a sense of purpose and meaning, even in the face of challenging circumstances.

Applying Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in Practice:

Experiential Exercises: ACT incorporates experiential exercises and metaphors to help clients understand and apply its principles in their daily lives. These exercises may include mindfulness meditation, visualization techniques, and role-playing exercises aimed at promoting acceptance and commitment to valued action.

Behavioural Activation: ACT emphasizes the importance of taking committed action towards valued goals, even in the presence of uncomfortable emotions. Behavioural activation techniques help clients identify meaningful activities and take steps towards achieving their goals, thereby fostering a sense of purpose and accomplishment.

Values-Based Interventions: ACT therapists work collaboratively with clients to develop values-based interventions that support psychological flexibility and well-being. These interventions may include setting SMART goals, creating action plans, and monitoring progress towards valued outcomes.

The Talk Room podcast episode 3: ACT transcript

So a warm welcome everyone to episode 3 or via talk room series of podcasts.

Being Your Best Self, I’d like to start today by introducing my Co presenter, Ian Stockbridge.

Ian is an accredited counsellor with the British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists and a founder of Hope Therapy and Counselling Services.

Thank you Wednesday.

And for those that have watched our previous podcast, Wendy needs absolutely no introduction.

And for those that haven’t had the opportunity yet, Wendy is a hugely experienced CBT psychotherapist.

He’s been involved in the field of mental health and well-being for well over 30 years now.

So an absolute pleasure to be here once again with you, Wendy.

Thank you very much, Ian, for that warm welcome.

So these podcasts look at the question of how to be your best self.

Now in I do that by looking at the question of mental health and well-being from the perspective of a variety of counselling and therapeutic approaches.

But today we will be discussing the subject of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy or for short ACT.

What act is how we use this to support ourselves on a day-to-day basis, as well as how we may look at the question of overall mental health and well-being.

So in as a councillor who integrates acts into your work, could you please explain what act is and how it came about?

Yeah, sure.

I’d be happy to Wednesday.

So acceptance and commitment therapy.

So ACT is a is an evidence based therapeutic approach develops back in the 1980s by a a chap called Stephen Hayes and then various people have come along since, people like Kelly Wilson, Kirk Strassel.

Really well known people in the field of acts and further developed the original ideas and act is often described as being an offshoot or a a development if you like of Cognitive Behavioural therapy say CBT is often referred to as being a third wave CBT based approach.

So a slightly more modern evolution or enhancement of of the CBT Y of working and you might say that there’s 22.

Elements of of acts that so the first is acceptance.

So very much about acknowledging or accepting that this is how things are for us right now, in this moment, so.

Seeing our current situation without exaggerating it, but also without denying it.

So seeing it how it actually is.

And then the commitment part is act as a.

Behavioural therapy.

So it’s the be part of CBT and it’s very focused on behaviour, so making a commitment towards possible and desired change through action, So a very behavioural way of working.

And so once we really see what our situation is, we make commitments to actions to change it to the extent that that’s desirable and possible to do, but not.

Not just any old actions.

We’re looking at actions that are aligned to our core values, so living the life aligned to the person that we want to be as best we can.

What do you want life to stand for?

How do you want to treat yourself and others?

Say really considering and exploring those types of value based questions and taking active and committed steps towards those things as best we’re able to do.

OK, thank you Ian.

It sounds a very interesting approach.

I’m very interested in what you got to say about it.

Um, but it sounds quite different to the traditional culture behavioural therapy approach.

Yeah, so.

Where does it still comes?

Under the the broad umbrella of CBT?

There were certainly differences in terms of focus and in terms of approach.

So whereas traditional and more classic CBT approaches can often focus more on challenging or questioning thoughts and belief.

Acts tends to be more focused on accepting and accepting that this.

Is in this moment our experience.

So we don’t get into the question so much about the rights and the wrongs of our thoughts, but it’s making a conscious and committed effort to make those value based changes that are both desirable and possible as best we can.

It’s very focused on mindful awareness, so.

Knowing how things are without ruminating about them, but also not exaggerating them in our minds either.

So seeing them as they actually are reaching acceptance.

But in this moment, this is how it is right now.

Without losing the more traditional behaviour based interventions that we might associate with a more traditional CBT way of working that can be really helpful in enabling us to make committed change in the 1st place.

So I know how it is, I know what I want to do now.

Let’s make some changes as best we can.


That’s really interesting.

Thank you, Ian, for that description.

And I really picked up on the word that you said there.

You stressed the word conscience consciousness there.

Yeah, talking about that.


So it’s very much about conscious or mindful action, say taking value based actions as a as a deliberate or conscious thing with full awareness to our experience and and what we’re doing so.

This is how I am.

This is what I’m going to do.

So not simply acting out of habit, not just following the same patterns of thought and behaviour as we as we’ve done historically, but making conscious, value based decisions to make change to our life as best we can.

Big part of that.

Is learning how to really understand what is going on in our lives right now, seeing it as it really is, Not avoiding looking at things that are painful because it’s through awareness that we can start to grow and to heal.

But also not exaggerating our experience either.

So seeing our reality and then working with that.

OK, Thank you, Ian.

That sounds really, really interesting.

It feels a lot to sort of take in at the moment.

So I wonder if you wouldn’t mind just summarising in a few sentences, just to make sure that I’ve understood what you’ve said, if that’s OK.

Yeah, of course.

So and I guess I would say that ACTS is an evidence based therapeutic approach.

It’s about supporting people to make value based decisions to maximise their potential to live a meaningful life.

And whilst acknowledging and accepting the inevitability of pain and struggle at certain points in our lives, so the ACT model very much assumes that there is an inevitability that there will be some degree of struggle and pain in everybody’s life, whether that’s to do with frustration or rejection, disappointment, failure or loss, There’s an acceptance and an acknowledgement of that.

That to live a full life we also have to live a full range of human emotions, but that we can consciously approach those challenging emotions, those points of pain in our life.

In a way that is as much as possible aligned with our values.

So whether we can?

Completely get rid of challenge from our life.

We can approach and we can live those challenges in a meaningful way.

And some people use the analogy of of climbing a mountain.

So in life there may be twists and turns and bumps that we face.

It can be, it can be hard.

Sometimes it can be really hard.

We need to be accepting that there will be challenges as we go through life, in the same way as climbing a mountain.

We don’t have to climb that mountain in any particular way.

We don’t have to go faster or higher than we’re able.

So in the same way, we can face the challenges of life at the pace that’s right for us.

Maybe even when we’re part way up the mountain, we can stop and reflect on the beauty of the view.

What the amazing thing that we’ve done so far, getting to the point that we’ve we’ve got to maybe.

Stopping in and reflecting just how far we’ve already come, how far we’ve climbed.

How brave we’re being.

And in the midst of all that pain.

There may still be beauty.

And hopefully an even more beautiful view.

The higher we climb, the further we go.

So that’s very much the the idea behind her.

OK, thank you.

And I really like the idea of life is a bit like climbing a mountain because it can really feel like hard work at times.

But also you do have to stop and look at the view sometimes.

I mean, that’s a lovely and metaphor.

Thank you for that, Ian.

It gives a really good explanation of what ACT is and what it sets out to do, but on a practical level, I wonder if you could say a little bit about what clients could expect to be working on if they were using ACT as a sort of therapy model.

Yeah, absolutely.

So there’s a few things there.

If we’re working with a client, we might we might be considering and the first is, is mindfulness.

It’s it’s this idea of deliberate and conscious awareness to really get what our present moments experience is.

So I said earlier, not exaggerating what’s going on for for us right now in this moment, but also not not avoiding it either.

So really understanding how things are.

In this moments.

So that might involve deliberately bringing our awareness to the situation that we’re in, really connecting with and fully being aware of what our experience is like for us in in in this moment, seeing it how it actually is, and then working, working with that.

Now very understandably, that can be really hard for some people.

People can be really resistant to that.

People might say I don’t want it to look at the things I find hard.

Find that distressing?

OK, so one of the things that.

In Act, we learn is an idea that’s called diffusion.

So this idea of being able to just step back, so learning to detach from the thoughts and from the memories that we’re experiencing, not ignoring them, not pretending that they aren’t there, but they’re noticing them, and then just stepping back so that we don’t become overwhelmed by the the pain that we might be experiencing in that moment.

And there are lots and lots of ways of which we might go about doing that.

We might, we might say things.

To help reinforce that this is simply a thought that we’re having the the thought may.

Not always be right so we might say.

I notice that I’m having a thought about being anxious so.

If you take somebody who has a lack of confidence, for example, we might we might encourage them to say, I notice that I’m thinking that I’m not good enough helping them to see the thoughts, but also encouraging them to distinguish between having a thought.

About whatever it is they’re thinking about, and the thought necessarily being true, seeing it as a thought.

So we work on learning how to observe our thinking rather than to become overwhelmed and tangled up in it.

And as I say, there are many, many different ways in which we can we can go about doing that.

The aim is to see our thoughts as a guide rather than something to be feared and and dominated by.

And if we, if we’re able to detach or to diffuse from our thoughts, seeing our thoughts simply as thoughts, it makes it far easier to look at them and to recognise them simply as being thoughts.

Where we’re having in this moment, not all thoughts are rights.

So remembering.

Also, that acceptance isn’t about saying.

The thoughts are true.

It’s simply about saying that this is how it is.

This is how I’m experiencing things in this moment.

It’s also.

Not about resignation.

It’s not about saying it’s always going to be this way.

Remembering the act is very much about a commitment to value driven change, to to the extent that that’s possible and desirable.

And then there’s a there’s a slightly jargony term that gets called by a whole variety of different names that we might, we might describe as the observing self.

Some people talk about the rigid self versus the the flexible self.

So if I if I give an example, because it’s it’s quite a jargony term.

So if you’re told that you’re not good at something, so if you’re told you’re not good at maths for example, over time you start to believe that we don’t try to do maths and because you aren’t trying your maths doesn’t improve and it starts to become a self fulfilling prophecy.

So over time you begin to believe that you simply aren’t good at maths.

It becomes the core you.

It becomes a fixed belief and that fixed.

Belief can start to define you, and it can define how you view yourself, how you live your life, and how you define your place in the world.


I’m not good enough Leeds into us never applying for the job that we want.

I’m not attractive enough leads us into never being quite brave enough to speak to the person that we really, really like.

So it’s just helps us to be more psychologically flexible to to just loosen the attachment a little to those descriptions that we might have about ourselves.

And then there’s this question that I’ve I’ve mentioned about values and committed actions.


How do we want to live our lives?

What do we want our life to stand for?

How do we want to treat ourselves and others?

What do we want to be remembered for?

So this question of values, it’s really about helping us to create a road map of the way we would like to live our lives in a way that has meaning to us.

So I’ve.

Reached the point of acceptance that my life is as it is right now.

Maybe it’s been caused because of the inflexibility of of thought that I mentioned just now.

So an example might be I’m unhappy in my job.

Because I have rigid beliefs about myself which have stopped me going for the job I really want.

So accepting that it is like that for you right now, how might we go about making value based decisions to change that situation?

So rather than just changing job from one to another and going through that same pattern of just going from one job to another that you really don’t like, we really stop and consider what our values are.

So if one of our values.

Is about being creative and wanting to live a creative life.

Then we might train to do something more creative.

Or if one of our values is compassion, we might look at how we can become a nurse or a care worker, or work for a charity, doing good work or or volunteering somewhere maybe 1 evening a week, but really making a commitment to make those changes that we feel are desirable and possible in order to help us live.

A more meaningful life as best we can.


And that’s really, really helpful.

Thank you so much for that.

Um, I think I’ve really understood acts a lot more now you’ve explained it and it it sounds to me as though the approach is, is very much an individual basis and it does depend completely on who you’re working with.

I have I got that right.

Yeah, absolutely so.

ACT is a really flexible way of working and it’s always completely bespoke to who, whoever the client is and and whatever their needs are and and what they want to work on.

And every client will have their own personal values and will decide for themselves what they want to work on and how quickly they feel able to do that and how far they want to go.

It’s about remembering that these things might not come in any particular order as well.

So some clients wants or need to take longer on some areas than others and also that we may well need to to loop back to to things that we’ve talked about previously.

Maybe there’s work that’s still to be to be done.

Some people may have no idea about what their what their values are and we need to take time working on that, whereas for others they might have a very clear view of things but just have that sense of being stuck.

So we spend time working on whatever the individual clients needs are and and the the model is really about setting value based direction based on awareness of the unique circumstances of the client finds themselves in and then making a commitment to ourselves towards making the changes that are desirable and possible based on that.

But all done in a completely individual way at the pace that’s right for the client, the the, the client is absolutely at the centre of everything that we do.


Thank you, Ian.

That’s really helpful.

That’s a really good explanation of the ACT model.

So what would people expect if they were working in an Act way?

And how, if they were interested in act?

How would they find out more about it?

Yeah, yeah, that’s a that’s a really good question one day.

So we’ve got a page on our website, people are very welcome to go and take a look at that and Commitment Therapy.

We’ll also drop a a a link into the the comments of of of YouTube as well so people can link straight through to it.

But the the Hope therapy and counselling team have a really diverse level of experience offering a variety of different therapeutic approaches.

And so if people are interested if ACT may be not quite the right thing for them.

We can really go through and help people to understand what’s available to them.

And and I know you Wendy, you have a website too.

Maybe if you just tell the to the the listeners and the viewers a little bit about that.


So my website is called Wendy C Dot Team and it has a lot of free resources on it.

If you become a member, you can access lots of courses and information on that as well.

So you’re very welcome to get in touch with me through Wendy C Dot team.

Ian, I want to thank you so much for a wonderful explanation of acts and it sounds really, really interesting and I do want to encourage people to actually go and look at the YouTube and and go on your website and find out a bit more information and and just to let our listeners know.

In a couple of weeks time we will be doing another series and this series will be on anxiety but with a particular emphasis on learning about worry.

So thank you so much for listening.

And it’s goodbye from me and over to you in goodbye from me as well.

Thank you, Wendy.



Take good care.

We recognise the importance of providing accessible and comprehensive support for mental health and well-being. In line with this commitment, we have launched our very own podcast series dedicated to counselling, mental health support, and mindfulness.

Counselling podcast on ACT
Our counselling podcast episodes delve into a wide range of topics, offering valuable insights, strategies, and advice from licensed mental health professionals. With decades of combined experience in counselling and psychotherapy, our hosts share practical guidance on managing stress, improving relationships, coping with emotions, and navigating life’s challenges with resilience.

Counselling podcast on ACT:
Our mental health support podcast episodes create a supportive and informative space for individuals to explore and address their mental health concerns. Through personal stories, expert interviews, and discussions on mental health topics, we aim to break the stigma surrounding mental illness and provide listeners with validation, encouragement, and resources for their mental health journey.

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